Fishing industry outlines Brexit concerns

Members of the Irish fishing industry have said they had had a positive meeting with the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator over their concerns for the sector once Britain leaves the EU.

Michel Barnier met a number of fishing industry leaders during his visit to Ireland yesterday, and Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation said the meeting was positive.

“Both Mr Barnier and [Foreign Affairs Minister] Simon Coveney are on top of their game,” said Mr Murphy. “Mr Barnier is an ex-minister for fisheries in France, so he has a very good understanding of the sector.

“We were delighted with the meeting, it was great that we got it and credit is due to [Agriculture Minister] Michael Creed for his work.”

Mr Murphy said the three main concerns outlined by the industry are:

  • The loss of Irish access to British waters;
  • The potential influx of European vessels into Irish waters once the UK territories leave the EU;
  • The quota share of the fish that Irish vessels currently catch in British waters.

He said the potential fallout from Brexit is of huge concern to coastal communities who are significantly dependent on the fishing industry.

He said Bord Iascaigh Mhara conducted a study which found that 85% of every euro generated in the Beara Peninsula region was directly and indirectly linked to the local catch sector.

“This is a matter of food security,” he said. “We saw during the snow how quickly the shop shelves emptied — we have a renewable food source right here.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil is tabling a Dáil motion calling for a Statutory Instrument that would introduce a penalty point system for fishing infringements to be rescinded.

Cork South West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said Fianna Fáil supports the introduction of a penalty points system for fishing infringements as requested under the EU control regulations “providing the rights of the individual are respected, that natural justice is allowed to occur, and our common law rights are upheld”.

“It is therefore essential that any new points system for fishing infringement must work within the remit of the Irish courts,” said Ms Murphy O’Mahony.

“The Statutory Instrument placed before the Dáil by Minister Creed seriously undermines the rights of individual fishermen and vessel owners throughout the country, and it bizarrely bypasses both the circuit and district courts by establishing a new structure which is answerable to no one other than the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.”

Ms Murphy O’Mahony said the Government’s proposals fail to provide for the right of appeal to the individual, to deal adequately with the onus of the burden of proof, or to separate the powers and independence of the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority and the processes which will determine whether an infringement has occurred or not.

“We have serious reservations regarding this piece of secondary legislation, especially given the fact that the Supreme Court has already twice expressed its reservations on this matter,” she said.

“It appears the Government has failed to address the issues raised in the Irish courts and the latest SI repeats the errors of previous pieces of legislation.”

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